Film Review: Playground

Nora and Abel

I think most of us still have vague memories of our first day or days at school. Especially if we’ve moved around and have endured several. Even if they’re now just abstract feelings of terror. Everything seemed so big and scary, and that wasn’t just the older kids! There was a system. A hierarchy. One the teachers and parents never explained. Often learned through bitter experience. A young girl experiences these highs and lows in Playground.

It’s Nora’s (Maya Vanderbeque) first day in school and she’s terrified. The quiet and shy 7-year-old is nervous around new people and doesn’t want to be alone. At least she has her older brother, Abel (Günter Duret), there to support her. However, he doesn’t want to hang out with her. She begins to make her own friends and settle in but notices her brother being bullied. She tries to help, but only ends up making it worse for both of them.

Playground is a lovingly crafted family drama which deftly captures the anxieties, stresses and learning curves children face when they’re introduced into a wider school society. Told from the perspective of Nora, we’re afforded a reminder of just how big and scary this environment can be. Laura Wandel’s feature debut is a deeply empathetic work. It’s cleverly written and both leads give pitch-perfect performances. Playground focuses on issues around integration without ever apportioning blame.

Playground is out in UK cinemas on 22 April.

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